Documents: Seattle tunnel builder wants $190M more

SEATTLE — The contractor digging a highway tunnel under Seattle is asking for $190 million in extra pay. Documents obtained by The Seattle Times show Seattle Tunnel Partners has asked for $62.6 million in change orders on top of the $125 million the company wants for repairing the tunnel-boring machine.

The Times reports the proposed cost increase would equal nearly $300 for every resident of Seattle or $27 for every person in the state of Washington.

If the state has to pay the whole amount, it would add 13 percent to the project already valued at $1.44 billion.

Todd Trepanier, the state’s Highway 99 tunnel administrator, downplayed the requests from Seattle Tunnel Partners, however, saying there was a “very slim chance” the state would have to pay for those expenses.

The state already has determined that some of the big-ticket items are without merit, and Trepanier said he expects the state would end up paying a fraction of what the contractor is requesting. The requests are not unexpected, he added.

“I think it’s right on par with the size of the contract,” Trepanier said.

The tunneling machine known as Bertha has completed just 1,025 feet of its 9,270-foot journey under downtown Seattle and has advanced only four feet since running into trouble in December. The machine isn’t expected to start burrowing again until March 2015, after crews are able to build a pit in front of the machine and replace the main bearing.

Chris Dixon, project director for Seattle Tunnel Partners, said earlier this week that the $125 million request for the tunneling delay was based on an earlier estimate the machine would restart in September. The additional delay would likely add to costs, he said.

The contractor is also hoping to be paid about $20 million related to a labor dispute concerning longshore workers over who would be on the project. The contractor said it is owed another $20 million for unexpected site conditions and groundwater at the machine launch pit. It also wants $5.7 million for a Seattle City Light service agreement and $5.5 million for strengthening the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Other proposed costs are smaller in scope, such as $32,000 for crane revisions and $13,000 to replace fiber-optic line.

Dixon declined to comment on the proposed payments Friday, referring questions to the state.

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